The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Highlights of Blackbaud’s Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits

Dennis McCarthy Dennis McCarthy

As an active donor, I find myself learning about nonprofits that matter to me through a recommendation from a friend or from an online search. I typically land on the organization’s home page and in moments make a decision. I decide, do I care about this organization, about its issue, and will I engage with this organization at this time about this issue.

Blackbaud’s Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits shares the measurement of these interactions people are making online. The report reviews data from about 500 nonprofits and their affiliates, who in turn acknowledged almost 17 million donations online, resulting in $1.12 billion in donations.

Before I plunge into some of the report’s highlights let me share a quote and a thank you. Wallace Stegner said “I was reminded of a remark of Willa Cather's, that you can't paint sunlight, you can only paint what it does with shadows on a wall. If you examine a life, as Socrates has been so tediously advising us to do for so many centuries, do you really examine a life, or do you examine the shadows it casts on other lives?”

And this leads me to my thank you; to the other writers and groups who have published their own studies for online giving and engagement. Organizations and agencies such as Giving USA, HJC/New Media, NTEN, and M&R have all created important and wonderful content about giving and philanthropy. Significantly Steve MacLaughlin, Blackbaud’s director of Idea Lab, published the 2012 Charitable Giving Report which carefully examines giving through the online channel. And also to my colleagues who spent hundreds of hours compiling this report: Bryan Snyder, Chas Offet, Andrew Shoaff and Ashley Thompson.

Stegner’s quote envisions each of these reports’ intention is to directionally represent the supporter’s experience with an organization online. The report examines your organization in light of how it compares to other organizations including your size, your vertical and by how much money you raised online. No one ray of light paints a complete picture, nor would I say does any one report tell you all you or your board needs to know about your organization’s performance. They are rays of light and taken as a whole creates an accurate depiction of your organization.

Key findings:

  • The number of recurring/monthly donors increased by 27%.
  • Recurring giving now represents 8% of all online giving; very close to offline performance for many organizations.
  • New funds raised grew by a modest 3%, with the highest median growth seen in higher education and hospital verticals.
  • Repeat donors increased by 20%.
  • What we may be observing is a maturity of the online channel with slower growth in first time gifts and more people making online their primary giving channel. (The Blackbaud Index notes that online giving continues to grow at two to three times the pace of offline giving)
  • Now for those nonprofits who have advocacy as their mission, the number of advocates who donate increased by 11.9%. Interestingly enough, the quantity of total number of actions taken increased by only 8.7%, far less than the email file growth, which was 12.5%.

We live in complex world with multiple data points and reports; all representing aspects of your organization. To learn more about how your organization compares to other like organizations read the Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits.

The preceding is a guest post by Dennis McCarthy, vice president of strategy, Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud Inc. Dennis has been serving nonprofits for more than 30 years in the design and implementation of integrated marketing solutions; and building and managing technology solutions for some of America’s largest and most complex nonprofit organizations. At Convio, Dennis has managed the Strategic Services Practice, comprised of consultants in Business Analytics, Design & Information Architecture, Deployment Services and Agency Services.

Topics: Communications